/ #Alien Jon #Dance 

Ground-State Poi Moves

I want to introduce folks to a concept I’ve been thrashing out in my head while teaching.
I call it ‘ground-state’ moves.

The Lead-up

While playing around with a bunch of new stuff that I had seen in various videos on YouTube – Rastaxel, PoiBoy, Drex, Alien Jon, G, etc – I came across countless moves that looked awesome and appeared to flow very well and were actually very simple at the core. The complexity came from being able to apply the physics of your poi movements in a new way that you had never done before!

These moves stand out and look great on their own but something I found while learning them was the nascent seed of this idea at the back of my mind was making itself heard:

This move is really hard to get into on its own! How does it connect to the bigger picture?

I saw it for the first time from the outside, as it were, while I was in Bali. I was helping a friend with learning isolations and she was finding it difficult to start an isolation in the first place. Those of you who have played with them will know what I mean. So I suggested that she try approaching it from a different angle: start from a move she knew and then break into isolation.

The Idea

The idea of ground-state moves is that you pick a move you are comfortable with and know inside out, more or less, and you come from that into the new move you are trying to integrate. As well as coming from that move, you can return to it at any point.

When I started to integrate this into my learning process I found it did a bunch of things:

  • It lessened the feeling of lack of direction and confusion that arose when learning a new move on its own.
  • My brain had something else to focus on when I repeatedly failed to nail the new move
  • It gave me a chance to brush up on basic, but essential moves for free, while learning something vastly more complicated!
  • It allowed me to keep constant time with myself and avoid breaking up my flow when exploring unfamiliar territory
  • It gave a lovely little boost of endorphins when I crashed back to my ground-state move because I knew I could at least do something well!
  • And finally, it gave me a chance to re-centre myself before wading back into the fray!

The Execution

To begin with, pick a move you know well and can do in an infinitude of variations. Good starting points can include:

  • Wheel-plane split time spin
  • 2-beat weaves
  • 3-beat weaves
  • Wall-plane same-direction split-time
  • Continuous same direction or opposite split-time hip/shoulder reels.

You need not confine yourself to this list, or even pay any heed to this list. If split-same antispin flowers are your most familiar move, then use them! Also, different ground-state moves are good as learning aids for different things. It’s hard, for instance, to learn isolations from wheel-plane split time spin. A 3-beat weave or a wall-plane spin might be more useful.

Don’t be afraid to experiment!

The next step is to start out in your chosen move and try to transition into what you’re trying to learn. Your transition doesn’t need to be elaborate or graceful or spot-on or even transition into the new move! Even if you metaphorically reach out and touch the water with your big toe and recoil, that’s still progress! Next time, try to get further into the new move.

You might whack yourself over the head a couple of times but it’ll pass!

Always remember to come back to your chosen move, even if you cock it all up spectacularly. The beauty is that you can keep coming back to it whatever happens!


I can’t emphasise this enough. If, at any point, you find yourself getting frustrated and you feel your shoulders and arms and neck tensing up in response, stop and take a few deep breaths and relax. Stressing out while learning will set up a feedback loop which is a pain to get out of!

If I have time, I’ll get some of these ideas on video with some demonstrations of things to try and how these ground-state moves work!



Itinerant photographer, firespinner, poly feminist, he/him.